Reviews

2011 Hyundai Equus Driving Impressions


Drivers will find much to enjoy behind the wood and leather steering wheel and the unusual winged emblem found at its center. The combination of a very stiff structure, elaborate sound-insulating disciplines and an air-spring suspension produces an experience that is at once quiet, smooth and responsive.

Hyundai's 4.6-liter Tau V8 wrings out its 333 pound-feet torque peak at a fairly low 3500 rpm, but sustains much of that throughout its operating range by dint of variable valve timing and variable intake volume, so it's seldom found wanting. And on the rare occasions where engine speed is too low for the driver's needs, the 6-speed ZF transmission is reasonably quick to find a lower gear.

Of course, the shifts are made in keeping with the Equus's quest for refinement, and the avoidance of shift-shock is a big priority. If you need more response, the selector slips over into the manual slot and puts command back at the driver's right hand. It still takes a full-throttle, high-rev run for the redline to showcase the Tau's real strength, when the fairly hefty car displays an impressive surge of acceleration.

With multi-link suspension all around, the big Hyundai's chassis handles accurately, abetted by the Continental air-struts and the Sachs electronically controlled damping system. There's a driver-selectable Sport position, which subdues ride motions quite well without introducing much abruptness into the ride, but this is not really the kind of car one wants to fling around. It does very nicely with deliberate inputs at a brisk pace.

Hyundai's decision to adopt a hybrid electro-hydraulic steering mechanism was a good one. Utilizing an electric motor to drive a power-steering pump, it benefits from the energy savings enjoyed when cruising straight ahead with the motor at rest, and from the more natural feel of hydraulic assist once the electric motor has been summoned into action. Compared with a Lexus LS 460L which happened to be on hand for reference, the Equus has a far more organic sense to its steering than the Lexus can muster with its fully electric system.

That comparison revealed that the Lexus still has the upper hand, if only fractionally, in terms of noise and vibration damping, and perhaps also in regard to ride quality. But the Equus isn't far off, and it's certainly in the game as far as luxury attributes are concerned. It proved quieter than a Mercedes-Benz S550 that was also on hand, and its standards of fit and finish left very little to be desired. Altogether, it's an impressive interloper in rich company.

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